editor on the verge

Online musings from the newsroom and beyond . . . by Yoni Greenbaum

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It’s NOT good enough – UPDATED

December 28th, 2007 · 3 Comments

It’s particularly on days like Thursday, Dec. 27, when the Associated Press must feel good about it itself.

As most people now know, Thursday morning Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on a street in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Although this tragic event occurred early in the morning, most New Jersey daily newspapers appeared either ill-prepared to localize the story or simply chose to leave that responsibility to say, the AP.

This matters because New Jersey has a sizeable Pakistani community. Whether you follow the U.S. Census which places it at about 12,000 as reported by the AP or you accept the research of the Pakistani American Leadership Center, which places it at 95,000 (and don’t forget the state’s significant Indian community) this was an international story with significant local interest.

Yet as of Thursday evening, three of the states largest newspapers (Bergen Record, Newark Star Ledger and Asbury Park Press) were using a local AP story on their sites. Only two of the handful of NJ’s Gannett newspapers were running a Gannett News Service piece about reaction from two of the state’s legislators to the killing. And note to the Bergen Record (and Herald News which shares the same website) one of the two legislators interviewed by GNS was your very own Congressman Bill Pascrell. Why? Because Pascrell is a member of the Congressional Pakistan Caucus.

Four other daily newspapers didn’t have any local coverage on their website.

Now I know about the debate over international versus local coverage. But my general rule has been, if it’s an international with local impact, it’s then worth some of our limited resources. It would appear that for newspapers in New Jersey this would have been the case. Yet, as I already outlined, those who did provide coverage on their homepages chose, for the most part, to use AP.

What frustrates me about this, is that I believe that many of these newspapers likely spent the day reporting and writing their own stories; they just decided to hold them for the next day’s newspaper. To editors at these newspapers, using the AP version allowed them to save their own work for their printed product, the AP version was good enough.

This is the backward type of thinking that we as a newspaper industry need to overcome. It is a lecture that has been given time again, but maybe now can be simply put — good enough, is NOT good enough.

8:52 a.m. (EST)Just came back from picking up some of the newspapers I mentioned above. Sure enough, they have their own stories about local reaction to the assassination. I’d love to hear their explanations for putting their print products first and holding this content for today’s papers.

Tags: Best Practices · Breaking News · Industry · Local Newspapers · Online · Reporting

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Ryan // Dec 28, 2007 at 1:11 pm

    It’s not much, but take a look what we did with what little resources we had in connection with Bhutto’s assassination. Right now our newsroom is in a lot of flux, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do things like this even if they aren’t perfect (Most often they are not.) But it at least gets us in the game.

    http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/legacy/slideshows/122707bhutto/index.html

    Granted, we also ran wire as out main story but with at least two accompanying stories from our newsroom. Patrick Garrity, out metro editor, did a nice job finding what little local connections there were to the event.
    Front page today:
    http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com

  • 2 Mark Dykeman // Dec 28, 2007 at 8:02 pm

    On the other hand, wouldn’t it have made sense to start with general coverage of the event, to spread some base knowledge via AP, before bringing in the local perspective?

    I don’t know much about print journalism, but…

  • 3 Yoni Greenbaum // Dec 28, 2007 at 9:11 pm

    Mark – That is a valid point and I should have made it clear that the coverage I was referring to (and looking for) was in addition to the general wire story about the assassination.

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